The bane of any creator is when you hit that wall that stops you from going any further with your story, artwork, etc. It can come at any time. When you’ve just started, right in the middle or when you’re so close to the end you can taste it. And it can become aggravating as you struggle to get your brain to try and help you finish but all you can get from it is a headache and frustration.
I’ve seen a lot of pro level people talk about this, and they’ll almost always tell you that it’s a myth or simply something only amateurs deal with because they’re not putting in enough work. I have been writing most of my life, trying to make a career of it since I was sixteen, and I will still sit down with Word open and be unable to make the words come out of my fingers. Every time I saw “Writer’s block doesn’t exist” I would scoff and equate it to some magical fantasy like elves, leprechauns and Doug Walker’s sense of subtlety.
And then last month I finally found writing nirvana.
So yeah… I have some apologies to make.
However I will not entirely recant my position because I still find the idea of dismissing the whole thing as mythical to be unprofessional as well as anyone can hit a creative block. I saw an interview with Joe Quesada, pro artist and former Editor-In-Chief of Marvel, over at Comic Book Resources where he admitted some days he sits down to draw a page and just can’t get it out.
When I read or hear advice on getting past the wall, it seems to miss the point, in my opinion anyway. Over at webcomics.com, when it was still a free site, someone did an article about the subject that implied block were only the fear of continuing and that creators always have alternate routes that they just aren’t taking because of stubbornness or whatever. I tried to explain that this wasn’t a block, to me at least, but no one seemed to see where I was coming from and would just repeat what the article said, even though I would point out it wasn’t related to what I was asking.
My personal definition of writer’s block is when you reach a point in the story where you run out of ideas and cannot see where to go next. You can’t go back one or two pages, you would have to throw out most of the work you’ve done in order to push in another direction because the beginning is the only place you can see a new starting point. Hell, you might still be at the beginning. You strain and think but what happens next just refuses to come to you. That was the problem I always had and no one could give me an answer for it.
So how did I finally overcome my nemesis? Well a month ago my job had a training program and the instructors handed out pens and writing pads to take notes. And by writing pads, I mean A4 paper with about 70 pages. I used at most two, so on the train ride home I decided to kill time by writing a short story. That turned into a novel that I write every day to and from work on the train, which takes about an hour. This morning I finished my 120th page. Let me make it clear, I’ve tried writing novels before but I’m lucky if I can do forty in a month, which is why I usually give up since most of the time I just sit there straining. The train is also where I write articles for Webcomic Overlook, this one included.
It’s so simple it sounds stupid but I think that’s why pro creators tend to dismiss the idea as false. It’s all about finding a method that works best for you, and then easing yourself out of it so that you can write and draw whenever and wherever you have time to.
Before, I always wrote everything on my computer, typing up everything and focusing on it being perfect. But on paper, I don’t worry as much because I know it’s just a rough draft and that I’m going to rewrite it when I type it up as my second draft. I mean I still do my best to make it good but it’s more about getting everything down than making it into a masterpiece.
Really, getting past the block is about who you are as a creator and as I have found out, it’s not always something you can do by imitating what the pros do. I know creators who will say never write while listening to music as it will only serve as a distraction. I’ve never had that problem and in fact I write better with a little background noise. Others will say to just sit down, write, and stop complaining. No, it’s not always that simple, sometimes it’s about your environment.
Now some people may point out that a lot of pros would say the advice that I’m giving here would just breed bad habits as you’d have people who can only write at a certain coffee shop in a certain chair. It would not be beneficial in the long run. And they would be right, if you make that setting into your habit. But you can ease yourself in. I’ve started writing with pen and paper at my desk and it’s going well. Every body needs a starting point and some won’t find it unless they put themselves in a place where they can be their most creative. You just need to find that place. I did and I’ve gotten more work done than i could have hoped for.
If only I could get my art up to scratch.